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Gardening under trees  RSS feed

 
Jeffery pinkston
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Location: Snow Creek Village, CA
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Hello Everyone

I am gardening in a very unique and beautiful place outside of Palm Springs, California. I'm not sure the exact zone, 9ish. I'm at least 1,000 ft elevation, we get a few degrees cooler.

My question has to do with gardening under trees. Since we get the hot desert sun midday and afternoon filtered shade are good for most plants. We also get high winds and trees offer some protection. I chose a site in next to a Palo Verde and an Olive with an acceptable amount of rocks and started digging out the larger ones. Although I didn't go deep enough to encounter any large tree roots, I stopped swinging my pick-axe thinking maybe I had chose the wrong spot.

A web search turned up the conventional answer, gardening under trees is not good because the roots will start to grow into your beds and compete with the veggies. Solutions were to dig deep down and bury sheet metal to prevent the encroaching tree roots. Digging boulders in another part of the yard sounds like more fun.

For this bed I wanted to put in flint corn underplanted with tepary beans. In permaculture it seems like growing under trees is common practice, if you have the right combination of plants.
As a new-ish gardener (I last had a garden 7 years ago in Illinois, but I'm a plant geek and houseplant hoarder), I am willing to experiment and accept failure, but I do not want to disturb the trees.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Posts: 9744
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Here in my region it helps to put gardens where they'll be protected by trees.  Shade from the western sun is especially helpful.  Gardens don't need to be right under trees to benefit from this protection. 
 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 401
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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forest garden greening the desert trees
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A tree will naturally balance its above ground size with its below ground size. If you think the trees roots are competing with your veggies, simply prune the tree. Some trees even go dormant for a few months when you prune them.
 
Angelika Maier
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Posts: 1058
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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I had a garden in subtropical Briasbane under trees which did very well. It probably depends which trees, gum trees or walnut are not good. Try it out, there is no other way than trying. If it fails you still can move the soil produced.
 
Kevin Feinstein
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I would plant in containers filled with high quality potting soil. Growing under trees, especially in a hot desert like climate where you are should be great, it's the soil and roots that are the issue.  I grow nearly all my own greens and herbs in containers alone on concrete, largely in the shade of hedge trees and the house.

 
Zoe Mattison
Posts: 1
Location: United States
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Hello!  I live in Tucson AZ. I plant in containers and shade them with a sail cloth. I had to play with it a bit to get the right angle, which means angled in summer so the plants get mostly filtered sun.  Direct sun in August will kill non-native plants here.  I don't know what desert critters you have, but we have javelina & rabbits. I find elevated containers are relatively easy to protect.
 
Viola Schultz
Posts: 39
Location: Zone 6 Hudson Valley
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hi, my hugelbed built on the drip line of a big old red oak that gives a nice dappled shade from the afternoon sun seems to be doing great (going into the fourth season now) -- I did a little digging in front of it last spring and severed some roots that have gone its way but that didn't take more than half an hour work. The oak is doing fine and so does my hugel. On the other hand, the standard beds have problems with oak root invasion underneath. And yes, I trimmed the oak 3 years ago -- it is in the middle of my yard and I have no other options for locating my garden (do not like containers with all its watering needs and compromised soil microorganisms activity). Also, you should know I'm just a beginner - so there :0)
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
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I am 'studying' all about hot climates now for my 'future plans'. In my opinion the vegetables will LOVE the shadow of the trees! Just do not plant too close to the tree trunk. The suggestion to plant in containers seems like a good idea to me too.
 
Casey Williams
Posts: 36
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I would maybe look into plants with different root structures and habits (depth of roots, size of root system, etc.) to plant under or by the trees. Basically, the whole "different root zone" concept. You can also find plants that grow well in conjunction with the trees that you are planting under. What usually grows under/by/with the selected trees? Possibly try to mimic that as best you can while using plants that you will enjoy harvesting as well.

It may also help to find out what grows well in moderate to minimum shade in your area. In South TX we also have hot, sunny, long days much of the year. Many "full sun" plants like to be protected quite a bit more than I would think, because of the extreme amount of sun and heat that we receive.
 
ronie dee
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Location: NW MO
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Stinging nettles under tree

 
Erwin Decoene
Posts: 106
Location: Courtrai Area, Flanders Region, Belgium Europe
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I use containers to grow herbs, paprika, tomato, strawberries and such and i do grow elderberries, raspberries, black (aka Cassis), red and white currants, some herbs (wood garlic, lemon balm, ...) and stingy nettles under a walnut tree in shade (or in the shade of the house and a neighbours trees).
Almost everything under my wallnut tree grows there spontaneously from seed that either the birds or I dumped there.

I only have to knock back some exotics (pokeweed, false strawberry, bamboe, ....) that i don't want there.


In springtime most plant come up and by july most are in seed before the walnutt and the berrys dry the earth. So perhaps you might check what kind of usefull plants grow in spring. I harvest several greens and elderberry flowers in spring and early summer, then the berries, berrieleaves (for tisanes). Lemon balm, stingy nettles and raspberries i harvest till november.

The last months raspberries are not really tasty but they do well to make raspberry vinegar.

Hazel, some semiweld roses, prunes and blueberries are struggling for now. I expect to loose the blueberries. The soil is probably not acidic enough. Typically those are the only ones i actually bought and planted there. The blueberries BTW did well enough in containers. The hazel is also a spontaneous arrival. He is not in an ideal spot. Exactly on the border of my plot and that of my neighbour, in a too shady spot.


Off course i suppose this experience is only usefull if your trees loose their folliage in winter


I'm not familiar with this zoning thing you use in the States. Where can i find some explanations ?


 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
Posts: 1058
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Maybe you add some pictures of the situation?
 
Lee Kochel
Posts: 26
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In contrast to sylvopasturing, ala Mark Shepard, it sounds like you're looking at sylvohorticulturing.  One of the important features is the amount of crown cover at maturity, with some recommending 25 to 35%.  This usually means starting out with more trees than you will need at maturity with harvesting them over time, or planning on doing a lot of pruning.  Also check out Curtis Stone's Youtube video on pine wind breaks in New Zealand.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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In hot drylands, a more complete canopy might be desirable.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Posts: 9744
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Erwin Decoene wrote:
I'm not familiar with this zoning thing you use in the States. Where can i find some explanations ?


http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
 
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